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Child abuse rules followed, APS reports

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque Public Schools complied with all child abuse reporting requirements before the brutal murders of two elementary school students, according to district administrators.

On Wednesday, Superintendent Raquel Reedy said privacy laws prevent her from providing specifics about Victoria Martens, a 10-year-old who was raped, stabbed and dismembered, or Nhi Nguyen, an 11-year-old shot by her stepfather in a murder-suicide.

But a review of district records showed that staff “followed all policies and procedures on the books,” Reedy said.

APS directives outline a process for reporting possible physical, sexual or psychological abuse to the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department. District police become involved if the crime occurred on a school campus. Last year, they looked into 53 suspected child abuse cases.

Carla Gandara, APS Police deputy chief, said there is no record that her department ever investigated abuse claims involving Martens.

All APS employees complete mandatory training on the signs of abuse, but district counseling staff said they can be hard to detect among students who are happy and comfortable at school.

Reedy urged community members to come forward and alert authorities if they believe a child is in danger.

“In the case of child abuse, that old idea that everyone needs to mind their own business goes out the window – it goes out the window for every single one of us because we have a moral duty to protect the innocent,” she said. “I know the community will bond with us and we will move forward to make things safer for our children.”

The superintendent called the recent slayings two of the worst crimes in the district’s history.

Staff from the District Stress Management and Recovery Team helped break the terrible news at Petroglyph Elementary and S.R. Marmon Elementary, where Martens and Nguyen were students.

Reedy praised the DSMART team, counselors and support staff for their skill and compassion.

“The pain and shock has been visceral,” she said. “We weren’t sure what or how to tell the girls’ classmates, their teachers, the people that cared for them. How do you explain something like this to children?”